Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Children's Ministry: The Training Ground for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

This summer I began directing the children’s church time at my local church here in Louisville. Part of my job was to decide on what to teach the children during this time. One of the things I really want to instill in the children of our church is a passion for God and for his glory in our design as men and women. I want these little ones to see that God had a plan when he made them as little boys and little girls—and that plan is greater than anything we could ever imagine.

In the past few years I have heard various stories about children’s books geared towards an egalitarian model. Imagine three and four year olds sitting in a Sunday school class hearing a book read to them on the so-called “feminine” names for God. Imagine the little girls standing in a play pulpit pretending to be the pastor all because they heard about it in their children’s story—or saw it in their own church. Imagine a nursery where the only rebuke to a little boy who pushes a little girl is “that’s not nice to little girls” instead of “we protect girls, we never hit them.”

Does it sound like a big deal? Should we even care?

I think our egalitarian friends, while mistaken, are on to something profound. Children remember what they hear. In fact, what children hear and learn when they are younger shapes their view of the world as they get older. They are tremendously moldable. If a little girl hears from infancy to adulthood that leadership is based on gifting, then she could be very confused when she learns that her Bible speaks of men as the leaders in the church and the home. And if the only model for womanhood she sees is based on giftedness, not gender, then the Bible’s model for womanhood in the home and church will seem very foreign to her as she gets older.

Our little girls will not wake up when they are eighteen suddenly aware of their calling as a woman, nor will our little boys. And even if they are raised in complementarian homes, they will not by default grow up embracing complementarity. We are all opposed to God’s word—even the precious baby in cradle in the nursery will not naturally embrace God’s design for her life. And apart from God’s grace, as she gets older she will gravitate towards the culture’s understanding of manhood and womanhood. We are living in an age that is increasingly celebratory of androgyny. The Bible gives us clear commands to teach the next generation about the truths of God, so that they will learn to hope in him (Psalm 78:1-8). If they do not understand what it means to live as a created being, in his created world, then they will not rightly understand how to worship him.

When we walk down the halls of our church we need to know that the authority of the Bible is at stake in our Sunday school classrooms. What we teach the next generation about God should include what he says about who he made them to be. When you are teaching the creation story to children, I encourage you not to gloss over the fact that there is a man and a woman being created by God with different roles to play. When you are closing your time with your class, you can teach the little ones to thank God that he made them as little boys and little girls—and that these genders are not interchangeable. If you are a parent, you can be working even now to train your little boys to protect little girls, not react against them. And you can teach your little girls that it is good that they want to play with dolls and help in the house—and someday they will help in their own house and take care of real babies, even if they are single.

The little ones in our classrooms, while precious and fun, are all in their hearts opposed to God’s design for them. Therefore, manhood and womanhood is not simply a topic to be discussed at the seminary level, or even the adult Sunday school class level. It must start earlier. We have the great privilege of teaching the next generation the truths of God. And it starts in your nursery.

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